Premier League Preview and Prediction: Crystal Palace vs Chelsea

Competition: Premier League – Crystal Palace vs. Chelsea

Venue: Selhurst Park – Saturday, December 17 – 12:30 GMT (07:30 ET)

Match Odds: Crystal Palace 17/4 – Draw 3/1 – Chelsea 8/13

Match Preview 

Crystal Palace welcome Chelsea to Selhurst Park on Saturday morning, with the London Derby being the first game of the Premier League fixtures this weekend.

Alan Pardew’s side come into this one off the back of their midweek defeat against United, a game full of controversy. It was a tough result for Palace to take but they have to pick themselves up and be ready for this tie.

Crystal Palace are just three points above the relegation zone and need to get on a run of form sharpish to ensure they’re not dragged into the battle to avoid the drop. A positive result here and stopping Chelsea’s winning run would do wonders for the confidence of both the players and fans.

Worryingly for Palace, they have won just one in their last ten Premier League games, picking up just five points from a possible 30.

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There is not much to say about Chelsea’s run of form that hasn’t already been said, however they are only six points clear at the top of the table and the Premier League throws up never ending surprise results.

Antonio Conte’s side have won their last ten games in a row but know they’re going to be in for another tough afternoon here. Chelsea will be expecting to remain tight at the back and clinical as they move forward.

Chelsea’s defensive displays have been resilient, especially in their last two one-nil wins. They have kept eight clean sheets in their run of ten wins and will be hoping to add another to that list this weekend.

Conte has strength in depth at his disposal, he has already started making more use of his squad, with the likes of Cesc Fabregas working his way back into the side, it wouldn’t be surprising to see another change in the middle for this tie.

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Team News

Crystal Palace are expecting to be without seven players for this London Derby as Papa Souare, Jonathan Benteke, Connor Wickham, Steve Mandanda, James Tomkins, Bakary Sakho and Loic Remy are all doubtful.

Chelsea’s injury list remains minimal, Kurt Zouma, John Terry and Marco van Ginkel are all still working their way back to fitness, while Oscar, Eden Hazard and John Obi Mikel are all doubts.

Key Points

Crystal Palace’s last five: L/L/W/D/L

Chelsea’s last five: W/W/W/W/W

Key Stat: Emphatic – Chelsea have won their last ten Premier League games in a row. They are four games away from equalling the current record for most consecutive wins in the Premier League era.

Key Player: Diego Costa – The Spaniard is on fire. Chelsea’s run of form has been impressive but would probably not have been possible without Costa being as clinical in front of goal as he has been. Expect him to be in the thick of the action this weekend, he does however remain one booking away from suspension.

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Score Prediction

Crystal Palace 1-2 Chelsea – Another hard-fought game for both of these sides. Palace are expected to set up to frustrate Chelsea in this tie and it will be down to Conte’s men to break down a solid side once again.

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Will this be Conte’s best Chelsea lineup this season?

Chelsea left it late again to take all three points at the weekend in a performance that showed they lacked creativity in the final third and weaknesses in defence. While Antonio Conte’s men have got six points from a possible six, they are yet to show any real cutting edge, but as we know, winning games in the style they have is exactly what potential champions do.

While their early form doesn’t suggest Chelsea will win the title this season, they are already grinding out results when needing to. If they can improve performances they will be in a great position to challenge for silverware this term.

It’s obvious there is still work to be done at Chelsea for them to improve. Conte has made it clear he wants another defender and rightly so, as there have been the same defensive issues troubling them in the early stages of this season that were apparent throughout the disappointing 2015/16 campaign.

Conte has been making game-changing substitutions that have without question won Chelsea both of their matches so far. So let’s have a look at their potential best starting lineup and how a formation change could be needed to improve their performances from here on out.

Potential starting XI via lineupbuilder.com

Potential starting XI via lineupbuilder.com

As we can see above, the 4-1-3-2 is a less common formation but something that has a lot of potential to work for Chelsea. Regardless of who has been in charge at the club, 4-2-3-1 has been the preferred Chelsea formation, but it has become predictable and is showing signs of weakness.

The 4-1-3-2 formation allows a completely different dynamic to the setup. While the apparent strength of attacking wingers – who both play high up the pitch and drop in for defensive play – is still a key theme, the option of two strikers will provide a headache for opposition defenders.

Forward play:

Michy Batshuayi has to be starting alongside Diego Costa. The two have played less than a half of football together this season and already appear to have a telepathic relationship brewing. Batshuayi’s knockdown to Costa allowed the Spaniard to net the winner in their opening game against West Ham and both strikers were on the scoresheet at the weekend, with the goals finally coming while they were both on the pitch.

Having a striker next to him affords Costa more room to manoeuvre, get in behind and go unnoticed as he is not up against both centre-backs at the same time.

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In the middle: 

Chelsea lacked creativity throughout their game against Watford at the weekend and it was only when Cesc Fabregas came on that they looked threatening. Fabregas creates so much room for his teammates both on and off the ball, as opponents know they cannot afford to give him space. As soon as the Spaniard gets on the ball he is looking for a defence-splitting pass or to bring a winger into play.

Having Fabregas come in for Matic also allows Kante to drop into the deeper anchoring role on his own, where he is at his best. Kante can then break up play and continually feed Fabregas with the ball rather than having to try and be a creator himself.

Service to the wingers and forwards was evidently weak in the game against Watford, while the partnership of Matic and Kante is excellent defensively, the pair offer little creativity going forward.

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At the back:

Chelsea still look lacklustre at the back. The positioning of their defenders was to blame for going behind to a screamer of a strike at the weekend, while an inability to clear the ball properly under-pressure in their first game saw their backline breached.

In an ideal starting lineup, Kurt Zouma would play for Chelsea but as we know, he is still a long way off playing. Zouma’s pace and strength make him a great option at right-back, a position where Branislav Ivanovic appears to be struggling.

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Playing this XI also leaves an incredibly strong bench to change things if they aren’t going well for Conte, although many would argue the likes of Oscar, Matic, Ivanovic, Pedro and Victor Moses should be getting a look in to start games.

Moses has made a great impact in both his appearances off the bench this season, while the likes of Matic, Pedro and Ivanovic have somewhat struggled to show their class in the early stages.

Playing a 4-1-3-2 formation would also be beneficial for Oscar, as although he may not start every game ahead of Fabregas he still has the ability to take up other positions such as on the wing or rotate throughout the season in the number ten role.

While we aren’t suggesting Conte will opt for this style of play it is something that could potentially work for Chelsea and make them less predictable going forward. It is going to be interesting to see if the Italian makes any further signings before the window closes and how they will continue to lineup in the coming weeks.

Should Chelsea opt for a different formation? Does Batshuayi need to be starting alongside Costa from now on?

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Chelsea vs Norwich

Competition: Premier League – Chelsea vs. Norwich 

Venue: Stamford Bridge – Saturday, November 21 – 15:00 GMT (10:00 EST)

Match Odds: Chelsea 2/5 – Draw 18/5 – Norwich 13/2

Match Preview

Chelsea host fellow strugglers Norwich on Saturday afternoon hoping to end a three-game losing streak and turn a season around that has been laughed at by Premier League fans across the country.

With one win in their last six, it surely cannot get any worse for Jose Mourinho and his side. They have lost their last three league games and must start picking up now. Surely?!

They have lost six of their seven matches against clubs in the top ten so a home match against Norwich offers a great chance to return from the international break with victory.

Chelsea’s Premier League record: P12 – W3 – D2 – L7

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Jose Mourinho has stuck with the current team and has clearly dismissed the need for fresh legs – something that might be costing them as nothing seems to be improving much on a weekly basis.

This has been the worst start to a Premier League season in the Roman Abramovich era. We can only hope Chelsea can turn it back around, for normality’s sake.

Norwich have had it rough recently themselves, with only one win in seven. Alex Neil’s side have struggled to score enough goals and are too leaky at the back to build any form.

Norwich’s Premier League record: P12 – W3 – D3 – L6

It’s hard to argue against them being relegation battlers considering their open defence. They have the joint third worst defence in the league, with only Bournemouth and Sunderland shipping more goals after 12 matches.

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Alex Neil is struggling with the firepower of top Premier League sides and their defence will need strengthening in January if they are to stay up. A trip to Chelsea is a daunting one but given the Blues’ recent run, the Canaries will arrive with optimism.

This will be the 15th Premier League meeting between the two sides since 1992. Chelsea are unbeaten in their last eight league meeting with Norwich and haven’t lost to the Canaries in 21 years.

Team News

Chelsea will still be without Thibaut Courtois through injury, though the Belgian goalkeeper has returned to training. Kurt Zouma, Eden Hazard and Radamel Falcao are all doubtful.

Norwich will be without Matt Jarvis, who is suffering a knee injury, while Nathan Redmond is doubt with a hip injury.

Key Points

Chelsea’s last five: L/W/L/L/L

Norwich’s last five: L/L/L/L/W

Key Stat: Norwich haven’t beaten Chelsea in the league since December 1994. 

Key Player: Cesc Fabregas – Last year he was untouchable up until Christmas and since then he has drifted off the pace. All that being said he was back to his best for Spain against England last week. It’s impossible to predict what Fabregas will turn up, but if he’s on song, Chelsea will win.

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Score Prediction

Chelsea 1-0 Norwich – Very difficult prediction to make considering Chelsea’s abysmal form so far but we assume home comforts will lead the Blues to victory on Saturday. They’ve struggled defensively this term but should be able to shutout Norwich here.

STATS: Was Jose Mourinho wrong to let these seven players leave Chelsea?

Chelsea‘s form has been a huge topic of conversation after each game so far this season for one reason or another, mostly down to below-par performances.

Key players are failing to provide quality in the same way they did last season, with the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Eden Hazard and Diego Costa the subjects of heavy criticism.

Jose Mourinho has let some big names leave the club since his return in 2013, some of whom are enjoying great form in their domestic seasons with other clubs.

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With Chelsea under such pressure at current, it’s difficult not to ask whether some of those names should have been let go, so we took a look at some of those players’ statistics this season.

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 Former Chelsea players’ domestic league stats for the 2015/16 season (via Squawka)

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Petr Cech’s domestic league stats for 2015/16 as a goalkeeper (via Squawka)

Petr Cech comes out on top in terms of win percentage with an impressive 66.6% in the Premier League with Arsenal, which is 41.6% better than Chelsea’s overall win percentage of 25% in the top flight.

Romelu Lukaku, now at Everton, has bagged seven league goals so far this season. Chelsea’s highest individual goalscorer only has two (Diego Costa, Ramires and Willian).

The highest number of assists from those who have departed have come from Lukaku and Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne on four. Cesc Fabregas, arguably Chelsea’s most creative player, has just one league assist after 12 games.

And perhaps most staggering is the fact that the highest number of losses suffered domestically out of the seven players is only three, four less than Chelsea’s worrying total of seven so far.

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While we are not suggesting Mourinho’s transfer policy is wrong, it is clear that his squad is lacking in creativity and goals this season. What we must not forget is that out of these seven players only Petr Cech and Andre Schurrle (departed January 2015) were in the Chelsea squad who won the Premier League last season.

But Chelsea fans would be forgiven for looking at the names in the table above and wishing they could bring them back to Stamford Bridge to try and turn the Blues’ campaign around.

International Preview and Prediction: Spain vs England

Competition: International Friendly – Spain vs. England

Venue: Estadio José Rico Pérez – Friday, November 13 – 19:45 GMT (14:45 ET)

Match Odds: Spain 3/4 – Draw 12/5 – England  4/1

Match Preview

Spain host England at Estadio José Rico Pérez on Friday night as the two sides lock horns for the first time since 2011. The Spanish national team, as you would expect, is loaded with talent but a few key players are missing.

As with any International Friendly, this gives the head coaches a chance to rotate and experiment, but given the strength of both squads, the game has the makings of a good one.

Spain have won their last five on the bounce and are unbeaten in six. The last meeting between the sides was back in 2011 at Wembley in a game which was settled by a single Frank Lampard goal.

The two haven’t met on Spanish turf since 2009, where the hosts last came out on top as 2-0 winners, with David Villa and Fernando Llorente netting on that occasion.

Six Premier League players have made the squad for Spain, including four Chelsea players in Cesar Azpilicueta, Cesc Fabregas, Pedro Rodriguez and Diego Costa, which comes as a surprise given their abysmal season with the Blues so far. Manchester United’s David de Gea could start in goal, while Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla will look to make an impact from midfield.

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England have enjoyed some of their best form to date since the World Cup in 2014. They are unbeaten in their last 15 and have scored an impressive 16 goals in their last five outings.

Roy Hodgson has opted for a squad full of young players who will see this as a chance to make a lasting impression with the European Championships just around the corner. The Tottenham midfield duo of Dele Alli and Eric Dier will be hoping for minutes on the pitch, while their teammate Harry Kane is expected to feature.

England captain Wayne Rooney has struggled for consistent form so far this season with Manchester United but is always likely to produce for the national team.

This is a good chance for Hodgson to pick up a positive result in Spain but he will be focusing on getting the best out of his players and looking for consistency to continue with Euro 2016 now just seven months away.

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Team News

Spain have recalled Diego Costa to the side. The Chelsea forward has only played nine times for his adopted nation, scoring just once. One to watch is Paco Alcacer, the Valencia forward has netted five in five this season. The usual suspects for Spain are expected to play some part in this one, with the likes a Gerard Pique, Andres Iniesta, Jordi Alba, Isco and Koke all making the squad. Sergio Ramos and Juanfran have withdrawn due to injury.

England have had just the one withdrawal from the squad as James Milner will miss both this and the France game. Tottenham’s impressive start to the Premier League season has seen four of their inform stars make the squad. Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy will be itching to make an impression as they have been in incredible form so far in their domestic seasons. Kane has six goals and Vardy has 12 so far this campaign.

Key Points

Spain’s last five: W/W/W/W/W

England’s last five: W/W/W/W/W

Key Stat: England are unbeaten in their last 15 outings and have scored 16 goals in their last five games.

Key Player: Paco Alcacer – So long as the Spanish forward starts he will be looking to punish the England defence. His five in five for Valencia have alerted a number of European clubs and the 22-year-old certainly doesn’t lack confidence.

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Score Prediction

Spain 1-1 England – Neither side will want to lose this one and with recent form taken into consideration they are hard to split. Both sides have a two tough fixtures in this international break and domestic managers will have issued strict warnings to both Vicente del Bosque and Roy Hodgson that they don’t want any unnecessary injuries to their players. That could result in a cagey draw.

Feature: Chelsea dominating transfer headlines but are they panic buying?

Chelsea‘s below-par start to the new Premier League season has resulted in transfer news and rumours flying around about a number of players.

The Blues have today signed FC Barcelona’s Pedro Rodriguez after Jose Mourinho swooped in and stole an almost done-deal from rivals Manchester United.

The 28-year-old winger made it clear he wanted to leave the Catalan giants this summer after a lack of playing time and although terms had initially been agreed between United and Barca, it is Chelsea who have landed the experienced Spanish winger.

With Eden Hazard, Willian and Juan Cuadrado all having featured already this campaign, you have to ask whether there is room for Pedro and whether one of these three will be on their way out of the club in the next two weeks.

Foot Mercato have reported that Willian has been offered to either Paris Saint Germain or Bayern Munich, which would be a surprise given he appears to be one of the first names on the team-sheet for Mourinho.

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The John Stones saga also continues. Chelsea have reportedly had a third bid of £30 million rejected for the 21-year-old Everton defender, with a fee of nearer £40 million rumoured to be required.

It remains to be seen whether Chelsea will make a final offer to tempt the Englishman away from the Toffees but Mourinho wants the player and he will do what he can to get his own way with a short time left to go in the transfer window.

With John Terry’s position in the side uncertain ahead of the weekend clash with West Brom this will be a story with more to come. Whether or not Chelsea need the youngster is another question, with Terry, Gary Cahill, Kurt Zouma and Branislav Ivanovic all options for Mourinho at centre-back.

Ivanovic could find himself out of the squad for this weekend’s upcoming game, with new signing Baba Rahman tipped to start at left-back, pushing Cesar Azpilicueta back to his more natural right-back slot.

The odds have been slashed for Paul Pogba to join Chelsea before the window closes. This could be a clever manoeuvre from the bookies, given Chelsea’s late movements in the window leading people to believe they are willing to pay big money for players that will help them defend their Premier League title.

Juventus are reportedly holding out for at least £70 million for their highly sought after talent and having already lost many star players this summer, a move away for Pogba looks unlikely.

With a whole host of attacking midfield options at Chelsea already, Pogba would no doubt have to dislodge another player from a starting position. With Oscar occupying the number ten role he could more than likely be the player axed if Pogba was to join, with Juve linked with the Brazilian throughout the window.

Talk of Cuadrado going to Juventus is also ongoing but the rumours are that he would be going on loan to the Old Lady and would not be included as part of a potential Pogba deal.

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It is going to be a very interesting and busy end to the transfer window for Chelsea if we are to believe the rumours and Mourinho’s side could be the ones to watch very closely as they look to make up for their worst start to a season since 1998 with some late transfer excitement.

2014/15 Premier League Season Review: Chelsea

Premier League Final Position: 1st 

Review

Chelsea landed their first Premier League title in five years and ended the campaign eight points clear of closest rivals Manchester City. A season of solid defensive displays and consistent performances throughout the campaign proved to be the difference and picking up the League Cup was an added bonus. Jose Mourinho set his side out to win the league from day one and nothing else would have been acceptable. He has once again got the foundation for Chelsea to dominate and proved that no matter how you get over the line you are still worthy winners.

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Podcast Review

Best Moment

Chelsea all but sealed the title away at Queens Park Rangers. A ground where they have struggled in recent years and a very difficult game for the club on and off the field. Cesc Fabregas‘ late winner showed grit and determination and belief that the side could pull off a win in an ugly game – something Mourinho is a master at.

Worst Moment

Newcastle away. Chelsea’s shocking performance and loss in this game, their first of the season, in a game they didn’t expect to lose. Although not an aim for Mourinho and Chelsea, it stopped their chances of an unbeaten season and showed weaknesses in the side.

Player of the Year

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Eden Hazard Chelsea’s key player without any doubt. He made the champions tick and single handedly won games, scoring 14 goals. Hazard’s ability to create and turn games makes him the player he is and one defenders do not like facing. Although there are arguments for a whole host of players like John Terry for his leadership and Willian’s relentless work-rate, Hazard is the ideal attacking player for any club.

Biggest Win 

Swansea 0-5 Chelsea (Jan 17, 2015)

Biggest Defeat

West Bromwich Albion 3-0 Chelsea (May 18, 2015)

What to improve for the 2015 season…

It is hard to improve on winning the title. Chelsea have to maintain their performance level and desire in order to retain their title. Mourinho will not give his players any opportunity to perform badly next season and his mentality to win should ensure Chelsea have a great chance of winning the league back-to-back. Mourinho needs to bring in another striker as cover for the injury-prone Diego Costa and departing Didier Drogba.

Sky Sports pundits see funny side of Fabregas’ red card against West Brom

Chelsea may have won the league but they weren’t willing to take their game at West Brom on Monday night easy.

The Blues were fired up from the word go, with the returning Diego Costa adding some bite back into the team, but Jose Mourinho’s side went down to ten men early on as Cesc Fabregas saw red in the first-half for a bizarre incident.

The Spanish midfielder fired a ball at Chris Brunt’s head from distance while the referee was trying to calm the players down after an incident involving Diego Costa in the box, with the Blues already down 1-0.

Fabregas was sent off for the shot, and Chelsea were left to play the rest of their final away game of the season with ten men.

But Sky Sports pundits Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville couldn’t help but see the funny side of the incident, with Neville labelling Fabregas’ hit as “a hell of a strike”.

“I’m not sure why Eden Hazard throws the ball to Fabregas. There’s definitely intent to want the ball [from Fabregas]. I have to say, it’s a hell of a strike. I think it’s a red, because it’s stupid,” he said laughing during the halftime analysis.

“The referee never really has control of the situation. It’s a bizarre one but it’s a red card because it’s dangerous. The ball could have hit the referee and broken someone’s nose.”

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Carragher also agreed the incident deserved a red card but feels that the whole situation could have been avoided if the defenders ignored Costa’s antics beforehand.

“I’d have loved to have played against him [Diego Costa]. If I was against him I’d say ‘stop there, get on with the game’. That would have stopped all that followed.

“I think it’s probably a red card but not my favourite of the season.”

Wenger reveals REGRET over Fabregas ahead of his return on Sunday

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has revealed his regret over Cesc Fabregas leaving the North London club to return to FC Barcelona in 2011.

Wenger, quoted by Sky Sports, has said a possible return for Fabregas to Arsenal was not as “clean” as it appeared but deflected talk over the terms ahead of the weekend fixture against Chelsea.

“I cannot speak to you about that now because that will not help us to win the game on Sunday,” Wenger said.

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“We will have to discuss that one day, with all the terms. It is not as clean as that.”

Wenger went on to highlight his regret over the former Arsenal captain’s departure.

“The regret I have is that he wanted to leave here. This club and myself had a very positive influence on Cesc’s life, so I would be a bit uncomfortable to have to justify today why he is not here.”

Fabregas has played a hugely influential role in Chelsea’s quest to regain the Premier League title, scoring three goals, including the match winner against Queens Park Rangers two weeks ago, and racking up an astonishing 16 assists so far.

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If Chelsea are to win on Sunday at the Emirates, they will be just three points away from winning the title. Fabregas played a pivotal role in Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Arsenal earlier in the season, assisting Diego Costa to put the game out of reach, and will hope to help the Blues to victory against his former side once again on Sunday.

Will Cesc Fabregas steal the show at the Emirates on Sunday?

Chelsea star praises character of the team

Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas scored a last-gasp winner for the Blues at Loftus Road to secure a 1-0 victory over QPR on Sunday afternoon, and the Spaniard has praised the character of the team.

“The win was vital. We are playing for the most important trophy of the season and we are up there since the first day so we have to continue that,” Fabregas told Chelsea’s official club website.

“We know that some teams are putting pressure on from behind and we want to be solid, win out the games and this shows the character of this team.”

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The win restored a seven-point lead over Arsenal at the top of the Premier League for Jose Mourinho‘s side, although Fabregas admitted that it wasn’t an easy game and QPR’s performance, as well as the conditions, were tough on Chelsea, but feels they dealt with it well.

“It was very difficult to play this game with wind, the pitch was very dry, and it was not the circumstances we want to play football. That obviously is a positive advantage for QPR but we still showed great mentality and we never gave up.

“Even in the difficult moments we coped very well with the game and Didier Drogba played a big part because he held onto the ball very well up front and that gave us life through the game.”

Chelsea welcome third-placed Manchester United to Stamford Bridge next weekend before a visit to the Emirates Stadium to take on second-placed Arsenal the week after in two games that will surely play a huge part in determining the final outcome of this Premier League season.

How good is the character of this Chelsea team?